I received an advance copy of this novella from the publisher, Tordotcom, in exchange for an honest review.
“There are worlds where death itself is malleable, where anything can be rewritten, be undone, if the right approach is taken. Worlds where the air bleeds words and lightning can rewrite the past.”
Reading McGuire’s newest Wayward Children novella has become something of a Christmas tradition for me over the past few years. While my reading experience has varied book to book, it’s always cozy and enjoyable and transportive. I request very few ARCs, but this series is top among them and I’m always elated to receive the next installment. I was cautiously excited about Where the Drowned Girls Go, as it’s a pretty direct followup to my least favorite novella in the series, Beneath the Sugar Sky. However, this newest novella was absolutely fantastic; so much so, in fact, that it made me want to go back and reread Beneath the Sugar Sky to see if my opinion of it had changed. Where the Drowned Girls Go was a thoughtful, different addition to the series, and builds on and links every single one of its predecessors.
“I never wanted to be a hero, but that doesn’t mean I’ll let you turn me into a villain.”
Cora Miller, a girl who found her true identity as a mermaid of the Trenches, as been claimed by the Drowned Gods of the Moors, a different world than the one to which she yearns to return. Back at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, Cora is so scared of the Drowned Gods that she is determined to escape and forget any and all doors to other realms, even the one that her heart calls home. And she’ll do it at any cost. This determination leads her to switch her enrollment to West’s sister school, the Whitethorn Institute, despite Eleanor’s desperate pleading for her to reconsider. Because Whitethorn isn’t welcoming, friendly, or safe. It’s a prison, and Cora has just voluntarily incarcerated herself. Will the Drowned Gods find her anyway? Will Cora let herself fade, as Whitethorn demands of her? Or will she finally find the courage to face her fears and search for home?
“I am not yours to cling to or to claim.”
“I am not your door… But I might be my own.”
Besides Cora, we have a fairly extensive cast of returning character at West’s, as well as new characters we meet at Whitethorn. I found most all of these new characters interesting, and the returning characters who received much time on the page had all developed in lovely ways. This is especially true of Cora herself. I didn’t love her in her first story, Beneath the Sugar Sky, for a host of reasons. But I found many of those reasons not only addressed but rectified in this new chapter of her story. She grew tremendously as a character, and I’ve come to love her as much as I do Jack and Kade and Christopher. I’m now incredibly interested in getting more of her story.
“You can’t say ‘my hands are clean, that means I’m a good guy’ when you let people stand behind you with knives, ready to slash at everyone you say you want to save.”
I mentioned that this book builds on all of the preceding novellas. Some of the others could be read independently of the rest of the series, but that is definitely not the case here. The plots and settings and characters of the six books before this one are essential to understanding and appreciating Where the Drowned Girls Go. I feel like this installment bound the others into one entity, a solid foundation upon which McGuire could take the series in any direction for any duration. It made me incredibly excited to see what comes next.
“Sticks and stones, as the sages say; sticks and stones. I know what I am and I’m happy this way, and saying something true shouldn’t be an insult, ever, because that’s not how words want to work.”
Something I have loved about every single Wayward Children novella is the philosophical depth McGuire so beautifully imbues into the prose of each story. The writing is exquisite; I always find myself recording pages of quotes that moved me both with what they communicate and the lovely ways in which the do so. Even though all of these books are under 200 pages long, they always make me think and feel deeply. McGuire truly has a gift, and it’s always beautifully wielded on the page. I’m in awe. If each of these novellas has a philosophical theme, this one is courage and self-acceptance and being willing to stand up for both yourself and others, even when those in authority truly believe the ways in which they hurt you are “for your own good.” The dichotomy between the two school hammered these points home, and gave me an even deeper appreciation for the haven Eleanor West offers.
“You’re a monster in a hall of heroes, and we’re going to defeat you. That’s what heroes do. We beat monsters, no matter how much it costs us.”
Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series is this wonderful, rare balancing act between comforting and thought-provoking. Each installment is unique and offers something different in both story and topics to contemplate. But the central thread, the desire to find a place of our own and the need to Be Sure before we take the risky step out of our comfort zone and into a reality that fits us better, binds all of these stories into something even stronger together than they are individually. Where the Drowned Girls Go acts to solidify that tie while also telling a very compelling story in its own right. There’s something truly magical about McGuire’s writing and world building, and I’m already eagerly awaiting the eighth installment in the series.
U.S. release date: January 4th, 2022
U.K. release date: February 15th, 2022
All quotes above were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.
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